Community issues
Five of the SDSG provincial candidates met with the public in North Dundas at the Joel Steele Community Centre on Thurs., May 17. From left, Sabile Trimm, Libertarian Party of Ontario; Jim McDonnell, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario; Heather Megill, Liberal Party of Ontario; Marc Benoit, National Democratic Party of Ontario and Elaine Kennedy, Green Party of Ontario.    Sawyer Helmer photo

Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
Record Staff
WINCHESTER — The SDSG provincial candidates met for a general meeting with the public at the Joel Steele Community Centre on Thurs., May 17. Five candidates were in attendance including, Sabile Trimm, Libertarian Party of Ontario; Jim McDonnell, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario; Elaine Kennedy, Green Party of Ontario; Heather Megill, Liberal Party of Ontario and Marc Benoit, National Democratic Party of Ontario.

The candidates were each given a few minutes to present themselves, respectively. This was followed by a question period from the public in attendance and lastly, the wrap up comments. The meeting was hosted by the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce and the Dundas Federation of Agriculture. Bill Smirle acted as moderator and outlined the rules of the meeting to candidates and public members.

Questions from the audience members touched on Ontario’s key issues, energy, the budget, community services and agriculture. One member of the public asked early on of Kennedy and Trimm why people should consider voting for them when the larger three parties have a monopoly in the house. Kennedy told the audience, “I ran to give you a choice.” She continued that the Green Party has a long-term vision that extends past a four year government. Trimm passionately argued that no vote is wasted and any choice has an impact. She said she would like to see proportional representation to curb the idea that a vote for a party other than the big three, is a waste.

Megill and McDonnell were often called upon to go head-to-head on questions. When asked about the current level of spending, McDonnell insisted his party would reduce wasteful spending and balance the budget, while Megill said that investment in services to better Ontario means a small deficit is necessary. She added that she has seen first hand the improvements in SDSG due to investment in infrastructure, health care and education.

Questions moved on to rural community services including addressing the gaps in essential services between Cornwall and its rural surroundings. Megill insisted rural communities have a right to those services. “I would work to ensure rural values are heard at the caucus table,” she said. Benoit agreed he would look at the relationships between the municipalities. He continued that it is unfair to have less funding in rural areas and expect the same level of care.

Ruby Mekker of the Concerned Citizens of North Stormont asked Megill and Benoit what they would do about the recently approved Nation Rise Wind Farm project in North Stormont. Due to the number of signatures and citizens opposing the project, Megill said she would take another look at the proposal. She explained that sustainable energy like wind turbines and solar farms are necessary to deal with the current climate crisis and that she would like to look into the deal and uncover the issues. Benoit said he is interested in listening to the concerns of the citizens and finding a solution that benefits the community and the need for green energy.

Megill and McDonnell found some common ground in regard to the importance of local food. McDonnell said one solution is to use education and policy together. He continued that it is vital to support agriculture for the future. Megill said she would like to look into Kemptville College once more to see if it could be reopened. She was adamant about the importance of Ontario families eating and cooking local food.

Green energy and the Green Energy Act played a big role in Thursday’s discussion. McDonnell said he and his party are unhappy with the Act. They intend to scrap the Act and would undo any plans that could be undone in regard to the Act. He told the audience the Act is going in a tireless direction and “doesn’t use the science.” Something his party intends to do. Kennedy encouraged the long-term vision for green energy. She asked the audience what would happen when petroleum prices become increasingly high. She encouraged a balance and slow move off of fossil fuels. “It has to be done gradually,” she said. “We can’t give up on green energy, it is the future.” Benoit was in agreement. He said the economy and the environment are intertwined. He and his party want to bring Hydro One back into public hands and hopes to find a balance for green energy.

Each candidate was given a few minutes to wrap up any thoughts on the evening. Benoit said, “20 years of their [PC and Liberal] policies have failed, it’s time for a change for the better.” Megill said that she hopes the province can move forward with a proven formula. Kennedy focused on schools and said she would like to see one school board and school in every rural community. Those schools could be used as community spaces in the evenings and weekends to help provide more social services in rural areas. She added that the governing ministries need to communicate better with one another and cut inefficiencies not jobs. McDonnell encouraged a party to cleanup from the current government. Trimm said that she hopes to focus on the three biggest issues, health care, education and hydro. “You can’t expect the people creating the problems to fix it,” she said. “The issues are not black and white, big parties are the problem.”

After the wrap-up comments, the public had a chance to speak one-on-one with the candidates. Election day is drawing near. Check online to find where and when to vote.